Skip to main content

Full text of "My Country And My People"

See other formats

THE    ARTISTIC    LIFE                    277

an animistic principle which may be most fruitful of results
when properly understood and applied. As stated, Chinese
calligraphy has explored every possible style of rhythm and
form, and it has done so by deriving its artistic inspiration from
nature, especially from plants and animals—the branches of the
plum flower, a dried vine with a few hanging leaves, the spring-
ing body of the leopard, the massive paws of the tiger, the swift
legs of the deer, the sinewy strength of the horse, the bushiness
of the bear, the slimness of the stork, or the ruggedness of the
pine branch. There is thus not one type of rhythm in nature
which has not been copied in Chinese writing and formed
directly or indirectly the inspiration for a particular "style."
If a Chinese scholar sees a certain beauty in a dry vine with
its careless grace and elastic strength, the tip of the end
curling upward and a few leaves still hanging on it hap-
hazardly and yet most appropriately, he tries to incorporate
that into his writing. If another scholar sees a pine tree that
twists its trunk and bends its branches downward instead of
upward, which shows a wonderful tenacity and force, he also
tries to incorporate that into his style of writing. We have there-
fore the "dry-vine" style and the "pine-branch" style of writing.
A famous monk and calligraphist had practised writing for
years without result, and one day walking on a mountain path
he chanced upon two fighting snakes, each straining its neck,
which showed strength in apparent gentleness. From this
inspiration he developed a most individualistic type of writing1,
called the "fighting-snakes" style, suggesting the tension and
wriggling movement of the snakes' necks. Thus Wang Hsichih
(321-379), China's "prince of calligraphists," spoke about the
art of calligraphy in terms of imagery from nature:

Every horizontal stroke is like a mass of clouds in battle
formation, every hook like a bent bow of the greatest strength,
every dot like a falling rock from a high peak, every turning
of the stroke like a brass hook, every drawn-out line like a
dry vine of great old age, and every swift and free stroke like a
runner on his start.

One can understand Chinese calligraphy only when one's